Breaking: University severs licensing contract with Adidas
Earlier today, the University sent a formal letter to the Adidas group informing it that the University will be ending its licensing agreement with the company over its failure to pay legally mandated severance to workers at the PT Kizone plant in Indonesia.
Effective immediately, Adidas will not be able to produce any materials with the Georgetown name or logo until “the matters concerning the workers at the PT Kizone plant in Indonesia are rectified” and the University reconsiders its decision.
The PT Kizone factory was a subcontractor for Adidas, Nike, and the Dallas Cowboys Merchandising. Nike and Adidas used the factory to produce college apparel. Nike and Dallas Cowboys Merchandising have already paid severance to the workers. Adidas has said that it is not their policy to pay severance to workers who are laid off after their contract ends with the factory. The Indonesian factory closed in late March, 2010, five months after Adidas’s last shipment and ten months after the plant told Adidas it would stop accepting orders.
According to United Students Against Sweatshops, the $1.8 million severance amounts to a half a year’s wages for the plant’s 2,800 workers, who were paid $0.60 per hour.
The decision follows a months-long struggle by activists to compel Georgetown to cut its ties with with the company. Last October, Georgetown’s Licensing and Oversight Committee recommended that the University terminate its contract with Adidas over the same concerns. “This is an important step in a campaign that has been going on for over a year in response to Adidas’ mistreatment of workers at a factory in Indonesia,” the body wrote in its recommendation. “Adidas violated Georgetown’s Code of Conduct for Licensees, as well as Indonesian labor law, by failing to pay $1.8 million in legally owed severance to the factory workers of PT Kizone.“
The LOC gave Adidas until Dec. 15, 2012 to address the concerns at the factory. The company followed up on Jan. 3 of this year, but the University deemed its response insufficient.
“Georgetown does not believe the Adidas Group response adequately addresses the issue of the $1.8 million in severance owed to the former PT Kizone workers,” today’s letter reads. “As a Catholic and Jesuit University, deeply committed to the dignity of all persons and human labor, Georgetown University is steadfast in its commitment to improving the working conditions and lives of workers involved in the production of apparel that bears its name or logo.”
The University has taken similar action in years past against companies which don’t comply with Georgetown’s code of conduct for licensees and reinstated contracts once the standards were met. “[A]didas is one of many companies that license to use the Georgetown marks and logo through the Collegiate Licensing Company. Several years ago the Georgetown took similar action against Russell Athletics and Lands End based on workers rights concerns. With both Russell Athletics and Lands End, Georgetown reinstated our contracts once conditions improved,” University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr wrote in an email to Vox. “Similarly, we have informed the [A]didas Group that we would be willing to reconsider our business relationship with them should they take concrete steps to address and rectify issues with its workers.”
GSC’s meeting Monday night erupted in cheers when news of the news was announced. GSC organized and delivered two petitions to the University urging them to sever ties with Adidas. “This decision means that Georgetown remains a leader in worker rights,” GSC member and student representative on the LOC Julia Hubbell (COL ’15) told Vox. “I am proud that Georgetown showed its commitment to justice for everyone within its influence, even workers in Indonesia. I am proud of the role student activism had in making this a reality, and it has been so inspirational to work with the students who made this possible.”
Georgetown’s decision on Adidas comes a year and a half after GSC began organizing a year and half ago. Hubbell considers GSC’s victory an example of how student activism can be effective: “What is most impressive is that GSC has been working on this issue for a year and a half, involving many different members but always keeping its focus on the ultimate goal. It is a huge testament to those students who were able to stay with an issue long enough to actually effect change.”
Adidas Group has yet to respond to Vox‘s request for comment.
The full letter to the Adidas Group appears after the jump.
Image: Adidas Group